How not to get more business online

Small business owners are all seeking one thing at the moment – more business. Everywhere you look, small businesses are in need of extra custom. Whether it’s the recession, the credit crunch or just plain greed doesn’t matter – what matters is the fact that this is such a common requirement.

So what strategies are small business owners taking to get more business? Some use “Search Engine Optimisation” in the hope that higher Google rankings will bring them more attention. Others try “pay per click” to get more visitors to their web site. Meanwhile, other small business owners are trying things like writing better sales letters to help them convert more.

But this is all clutching at straws. SEO, pay per click and copy writing are solutions to problems – but few small business owners appear to have identified whether or not they have the problem which these tools solve. In other words, SEO might help – but it could be the wrong tool.

In a sense most small business owners are acting like a bad carpenter; they are choosing the tools they want to use without having decided what it is they actually want to build. The small business owner is so focused on their own need for more cash, or more customers that they have taken their eye off the ball of what their business actually means to their clients.

If you want more business start by considering yourself as a customer. What EXACTLY are you looking for? Let’s imagin you sell training courses in Microsoft Office. Simply using SEO or pay per click to get more customers will waste your time and your money. Instead, focus your energies on considering the kinds of customers you get and what they really, really want. Changing your offer into something like “how to save time when writing office documents” rather than “learn Microsoft Office” might be more appealling – your potential customers might be turned on by time-saving. However, you could also offer “Microsoft Office for busy mums”.

The “busy mums” are not looking for saving time, but the manager of a small team of adminstrators, led by targets, could well be in the market for time-saving techniques and wouldn’t be turned on by the “busy mums” line. Neither or them, though are attracted by the more general “learn Microsoft Office”.

Most small business owners want to get as much business as possible. Who is your target market, I often ask people; and they tell me – “everyone”. That means a web page that is targeting everyone will always fail. Whereas a web page that targets “busy Mums” or another that aims at “time saving techniques for Microsoft Office” will have direct appeal.

So, far from losing business by focusing on narrow areas, you will gain business. If you run a small business the best thing you can do to try and get more income is to audit your existing web site and see how well it focuses on specific targets. If you cannot identify the target customer within one second – that’s right, one second – your page will not sell.

For most small businesses, the key to getting more custom lies not in the tools you could use – SEO, pay per click, etc., – but rather in understanding who your precise and individual target markets are.

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